Does a hobbyist photographer need a site? Check out our answer!
Recently, several listeners of the Improve Photography podcast asked this question: Does a hobbyist photographer need a website?
In my opinion, it really depends.
If you're a hobbyist photographer who shoots photos of family and friends only, and you're not charging any money for your services, then it’s probably easiest and cheapest to just post images to Flickr or 500px or even on your personal Facebook page. Creating a separate photography Facebook page is also another option, along with using other free social media sites such as Instagram and Twitter.
However, if you're a hobbyist photographer who is already taking on paying clients or is considering charging for your photography services in the future, I'd recommend setting up a website.
I'll save you a lot of the trouble in choosing a website builder. My favorite is Wix, hands down. It's just so easy to use and affordable. I haven't found another that I feel more comfortable recommending.
Why is it valuable for a hobbyist to have a website?
As you know, people spend a lot of time on the Internet, and they are all potential clients – especially if they live near you. With that in mind, it makes sense for a hobbyist photographer to create a website. Of course, a hobbyist photographer can use this dedicated space to showcase his or her best work and gain more exposure. But in addition to presenting your photography portfolio, a website is a place where you can share a little bit about you—everything from how you got into photography to what types of photography you specialize in to where you typically shoot. You also have the opportunity to tell a potential client what they can expect if they book a session with you, to detail how much you charge, and to specify the best way by which to contact you.
Another valuable asset to a hobbyist photographer that a website can provide is a way to both proof and deliver photos to clients. By definition a hobbyist is a photographer who does not do photography full time or as a profession. Usually they are spending less time on photography than they are on a full time job that is paying the bills, which means they don't have the time to go and meet with clients as much as professional photographers may. Hobbyist or not, the ability to send proofs (minimally edited photos that are usually pretty small in file size so the clients can select their favorites to have a photography fully and professionally edit) of the photo shoot over to the client so that they can go through them whenever it is convenient to them is a great option. Many photography websites allow the client to select the photos they like right in their browser so that you can then edit them more completely and finally deliver the fully edited files without either of you leaving the comfort of your computer.
What website provider options are available for hobbyist photographers?
There are a number of different sites where you can create your own website. Some sites are free, while others charge monthly or yearly fees.
In an effort to narrow down the options, I asked members of a Facebook photography group to recommend their favorite photo websites.
Below are the websites they mentioned:
As I said earilier, Wix is easily my first choice!
Zenfolio was recommended by several members of the photography group. Improve Photography’s own Jeff Harmon uses Zenfolio, too, and highly recommends it. Here is a note from Jeff:
[x_blockquote cite=”Jeff Harmon, Hobbyist Editor @ ImprovePhotography.com” type=”left”]First off, just to be clear, I am in no way being sponsored by Zenfolio. So this comes from me as a hobbyist spending my hard earned money on a website and I have personally found Zenfolio to be one that has enabled me to do the limited paid shoots I do as a hobbyist photographer. Some hobbyists are only classifying themselves as a hobbyist because they are in the early stages of transition to become a full-time photographer – but I am very happy doing it as a hobby and have no current plans to change that. Because I am happy being a hobbyist, I feel like I can speak to the need for a purely hobbyist photographer to have a website. While you absolutely should share your photos on social media, I don't think that is enough for a hobbyist. At least it won't be long-term. Even if right now you think you will NEVER do a paid shoot, it is inevitable as you get better at photography that at some point you will be asked to do a shoot by someone. I do occasional paid portrait shoots to help fiends and family get good shots for a reasonable price but also so that I can buy more camera gear, and Zenfolio has been awesome for me. The cost is minimal for the functionality provided by the service. I especially love the way I can engage with clients for proofing and final delivery of their photos for the paid shoots. I also love the new iOS app by Zenfolio and how functionality is being added for Zenfolio customers on a frequent basis. I feel like the value for my subscription is increasing continually. The only downside to Zenfolio is the lack of really great looking templates – especially for mobile (although the iOS app is really good). My Zenfolio site is mostly for client interactions, where I think it shines above the other options out there, but I haven't found their templates to be particularly flattering as far as showing off my portfolio. From what I have seen SmugMug and Squarespace (an occasional sponsor of the Improve Photography podcast) are better options for an awesome portfolio. As an IT pro during the day, I really wish I could have more ability to customize my Zenfolio site, but that isn't what I use it for. I am very happy with how it allows me to get photos to my clients.[/x_blockquote]
According to Zenfolio’s website, they were voted #1 by pro photographers and have partnered with Miller’s, a well-respected professional photography lab.
Many photographers like Zenfolio because they can start out with their basic plan, and then upgrade their account (and receive their own website name) when they make the leap from hobbyist to professional photographer.
Zenfolio’s basic plus plan is just $30 per year, and the unlimited plan is $60 per year. (Premium and Premium Business plans are also available.)
The basic plan includes: 4GB + 2GB for every year; unlimited monthly traffic; and a maximum file size of 36 MB for photos.
Zenfolio offers a free premium account for 14 days, so you can test it out for yourself.
Another favorite among hobbyist photographers (and pros) is SmugMug, a website provider that offers photo websites for personal or business use. Similar to Zenfolio, you can store, share, and sell your images on SmugMug.
SmugMug's basic plan is just $3.34 per month if billed annually or $5 per month if billed monthly.
With their basic plan, you can create your own custom website with responsive design (allowing it to be viewed on smartphones and tablets). You can also upload an unlimited number of photos, but keep in mind that the maximum photo file size is 50 MB. You can create an unlimited number of galleries, and traffic is also unlimited.
Again, like Zenfolio, if you start out with the basic plan and want to upgrade to a premium plan, you can do so easily. And with upgraded plans, you’ll receive security features such as password protection, watermarks, and right click protection.
SmugMug also offers a 14-day free trial.
Photographer Stephanie Warner just finished building her SmugMug website and loves it. Warner says, “I've gotten a ton of compliments on how easy it is to navigate and it was very user friendly for me on my end. You get to be completely creative and make your site your own!”
Photographer David Blakeney has enjoyed building a photography portfolio, playing with different website templates, and fine-tuning access to his SmugMug site. Blakeney says that SmugMug “has met my immediate needs to do private client work where they are paying for a set of photos. I can't tell you yet what comes next when I decide to sell individual photos beyond a single client, but certainly most of the hosting sites now have commerce capabilities built-in as well.”
Another website option is Photobiz, where you can either design your website by yourself, using a customizable website template, or hire a designer to create one for you.
Photographer Thomas Kuhl happily displays his professional photographs on PhotoBiz.
Photographer Hailey Ayson uses Squarespace and loves it. Ayson says, “It's very clean and professional looking. And I think you can get it for as low as $10 a month.”
She's indeed correct: The personal plan is just $8 per month if billed annually or $12 per month if billed month-to-month. (Squarespace also offers a business plan and a commerce plan.)
With the personal plan, you're limited to 20 pages only, but you receive unlimited bandwidth and storage.
Squarespace offers a free 14-day trial period.
No listing of photography websites would be complete without mentioning WordPress. WordPress is a wildly popular, open source blogging platform that has been used by many photographers to create their websites. Being open source, it means you can download it for free and install it to create a website. However, unless you are very technically savvy (know how to install it on a Linux server and get a domain name setup to point to it), you will need to find a hosting provider that offers WordPress as an option for creating blog posts.
Due to WordPress being open source, the other cool thing about it are the plugins available. Developers have created and sell plugins that turn the blogging platform into a fairly full featured photo sharing website. Again, it takes a little more technical skill to make this work properly, but the flexibility provided is incredible.
Given the amount of effort it takes to get a WordPress blog to function well, this isn't a recommended option for a hobbyist photographer who just needs something to work with minimal fuss.
Pixieset is a website platform similar to Zenfolio and SmugMug, in that it allows photographers to share their images with clients as well as sell them online. One feature that appealed to me is that social media sharing on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest is built in to the client photo galleries, allowing clients to quickly and easily share their images. Secondly, I love that clients can download their photos from their gallery instantly, eliminating the need for a USB drive or DVD. While Pixieset appears to cater to mostly professional photographers, it might be a good fit for an avid hobbyist photographer.
Like Wix, Weebly is a website provider you can use to create your own website, free of charge. Weebly offers unlimited pages for free. If you’re interested in your own domain, though, you’ll pay $4 per month.
What do you think: Does a hobbyist photographer need a website? If so, which one would you recommend?
About the Author
Jennie Harless is a hobbyist photographer who loves capturing life through her lens. Her favorite subject is her 3-year-old son whom she and her husband adopted at birth. Jennie and her family make their home in Northern California, but love to travel to places all over the United States. Her photography and writing can be found at The Life and Times of Jennie Rose and Jennie’s Journey.